prof·​li·​gate | \ ˈprä-fli-gət How to pronounce profligate (audio) , -ˌgāt \

Definition of profligate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : wildly extravagant profligate spending
2 : completely given up to dissipation and licentiousness : shamelessly immoral leading a profligate life


prof·​li·​gate | \ ˈprä-fli-gət How to pronounce profligate (audio) , -ˌgāt \

Definition of profligate (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person given to wildly extravagant and usually grossly self-indulgent expenditure

Other Words from profligate


profligately adverb

Don't Get Overwhelmed by the History of Profligate


When a royal record keeper reported the "profligation of the knights" almost five centuries ago, he didn't mean the knights were wildly indulging in excesses; he meant they were thoroughly defeated in battle. There's nothing etymologically extreme there; the Latin verb profligare, which is the root of both profligate and the much rarer profligation (meaning "ruin"), means "to strike down," "to destroy," or "to overwhelm." When the adjective profligate first appeared in print in English it meant "overthrown" or "overwhelmed," (a sense that is now obsolete) but over time the word's meaning shifted to "immoral" or "wildly extravagant."

Examples of profligate in a Sentence

Adjective In a curious way, part of the genius of America has been a collective forgetfulness, a talent for somehow outdistancing problems in a headlong race toward something new. It is a form of heedlessness, perhaps, blithe and profligate, but also an exuberant forward spin that may spare people the exhausting obligations of revenge. — Lance Morrow, Time, 4 Apr. 1988 Sure, the trade deficit symbolizes a profligate America, consuming more than it produces and spending more than it has. — Philip Revzin, Wall Street Journal, 17 Mar. 17, 1988 Everyone seemed fond of statistics, but the counterterrorism experts were especially profligate with numbers. — Kurt Andersen, Time, 24 June 1985 She was very profligate in her spending. profligate movie producers hoping to create the next blockbuster Noun "Why did you ask that scoundrel, Rawdon Crawley, to dine?" said the Rector to his lady, as they were walking home through the park. "I don't want the fellow. He looks down upon us country people as so many blackamoors.  … Besides, he's such an infernal character—he's a gambler—he's a drunkard—he's a profligate in every way." — William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, 1848 a profligate who could not really afford the grand style he maintained at Monticello, Jefferson died deeply in debt a drunken profligate, he was given to wretched excess in every aspect of his life
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective High-rollers from China and their financiers—previously a big revenue source for casinos—seem likely to focus on keeping their own heads from rolling rather than resuming their profligate ways next year. Jacky Wong, WSJ, 29 Nov. 2021 But Taft wasn't the only profligate GOP donor to Wisconsin's senior senator. Daniel Bice, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 24 Nov. 2021 At some point, perhaps not long from now, the US will face sharply higher interest rates and the type of budgetary constraints that were typical of profligate Third World borrowers. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 30 Oct. 2021 His backing proved instrumental in the artist’s commercial success, including his later ascension to the rank of court painter to Henry VIII, the profligate intellectual who sat on the English throne from 1509 to 1547. Los Angeles Times, 26 Oct. 2021 In the aftermath of the profligate exercise — $276 million in tax dollars torched so Newsom could romp past his Republican opponents — there has been no shortage of calls to reform the recall. Los Angeles Times, 28 Sep. 2021 These inflated numbers will come down as centrist and pragmatic Congressional Democrats get hammered by business owners at home about profligate spending and a gargantuan tax increase. Charlie Dent, CNN, 19 Sep. 2021 His life had been characterized mainly by juvenile pranks, a complete lack of interest in studying, a disdain for propriety in his romantic life, and a profligate use of his father’s wealth. Gary Kamiya, San Francisco Chronicle, 17 Sep. 2021 The severed heads of natives were impaled on trees as a warning to any would-be resistance fighters, prisoners were tortured and executed, and napalm was rained down with profligate cruelty on entire forests full of dissidents. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, 12 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun After years of profligate spending, the city had dwindling tax revenues and huge budget deficits; was low on cash for operating expenses; and, unable to borrow more, faced horrendous personnel layoffs, service cuts and bond defaults. New York Times, 5 Jan. 2022 Still, Republicans have slammed Democrats for profligate spending since retaking the majority, decrying the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief measure passed in March and the possible passage of the Build Back Better Act. Grace Segers, The New Republic, 15 Dec. 2021 In 1911, the two retired to Daytona Beach, Florida, and passed the financial reins to their son William, who would soon grow into a profligate playboy. Michael Ames, The New Yorker, 15 Dec. 2021 The house can afford profligate spending, of course, because LVMH is controlled by the Arnault family, which is far more patient than Wall Street fund managers. Christina Binkley, Robb Report, 27 Nov. 2021 It’s a fraught debate, draped by the legacy of profligate prescribing. Andrew Joseph, STAT, 25 Nov. 2021 The massive spending package has been criticized by Republicans for being profligate while some left-wing Democrats have argued the bill doesn’t go far enough. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 7 Aug. 2021 Moreover, a flat, across-the-board increase in the federal Medicaid reimbursement percentage helps richer states that have created profligate Medicaid programs at the expense of poorer states and states with more efficient Medicaid programs. Brian Blase, Forbes, 10 Sep. 2021 The report compares the water bills for residences who use a profligate 40,000 gallons a month, and found that Washington County’s water wasters get a deal, while those in Colorado and Arizona pay a steep price. Brian Maffly, The Salt Lake Tribune, 28 July 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'profligate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of profligate


1617, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1709, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for profligate

Adjective and Noun

Latin profligatus, from past participle of profligare to strike down, from pro- forward, down + -fligare (akin to fligere to strike); akin to Greek phlibein to squeeze

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The first known use of profligate was in 1617

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Last Updated

2 Dec 2021

Cite this Entry

“Profligate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jan. 2022.

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English Language Learners Definition of profligate

: carelessly and foolishly wasting money, materials, etc. : very wasteful

More from Merriam-Webster on profligate

Nglish: Translation of profligate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of profligate for Arabic Speakers


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